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Poster: AltheaRose Date: Feb 1, 2012 5:37am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Rosemary

Thanks LiA. I love Rosemary. I had no idea about the '68 recording; that's a neat little fragment ... just such a haunting song.

And when I think of it, how many other songs have a woman as a protagonist? Not in the sense of being seen by a guy whose presence is implied (Annie in the roses, Rose being urged to ramble on, etc), but actually just a picture of a woman. I actually can't think of any. Though that may be just my swiss cheese brain.

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Poster: ringolevio Date: Feb 1, 2012 8:47am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Rosemary

Ah! I was going to write that the ten thousand drowned who aren't born are echoed in the ten thousand that the lady in Jackaroe is not afraid to see fall ... and then realized, this is also a song with a female protagonist (and not lurking in any walled garden, either).

thanks as always, LiA.

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Poster: AltheaRose Date: Feb 1, 2012 9:28pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Rosemary

We have a winner! Both Stagger Lee and Jackaroe, I'd say.

I won't go for the lady in the fire in Terrapin, cuz it's not about her per se; she's just part of the whole vision. (IMO the POV in Terrapin isn't gendered, but still, the lady isn't the protagonist.)

Arguably Bird Song and Cassidy, though. Both can be seen as being about women from a non-gendered POV (well, one woman and one baby girl). At least I don't hear the POV as gendered; not like, say, Rose/Annie/Althea/the Sugar Mag and Scarlet Begonia girls/etc where the characters seem to be very clearly being seen by a guy.

Oh, and I always think of Oh Babe It Ain't No Lie as female, but I guess that's just cuz I associate it with Elizabeth Cotton.

Actually I don't think of Rosemary as being cloistered or locked in her garden; to me, it's a very inward-looking song, and the aloneness is more the solitariness of individual experience and transcendence.

This post was modified by AltheaRose on 2012-02-02 05:28:20

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Poster: light into ashes Date: Feb 1, 2012 10:41pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Rosemary

What, you don't count those feminist odes, Loose Lucy or Money Money? :)

Actually, one possible contender is Sugaree. The song doesn't specify the gender of the singer, or of Sugaree, so it's gender-free. All sorts of interpretations are possible, as you can read here:
http://www.well.com/conf/deadsongs.vue/topics/193/Sugaree-page01.html
(Robert Hunter thought of Sugaree as a pimp, though, which takes care of that!)

You wrote -
"Actually I don't think of Rosemary as being cloistered or locked in her garden; to me, it's a very inward-looking song, and the aloneness is more the solitariness of individual experience and transcendence."
I don't really agree with that, but it's an interesting viewpoint. The song did not seem 'inward-looking' to me, or about the lady's experience at all: it keeps its distance.

Rosemary is such a terse song, it's impossible to interpret really. It's obvious she has freedom of movement, so she's certainly not stuck in the garden ("she came and she went and at last went away") but we don't know what she's doing there or where she goes. But death and/or abandonment is, I think, implied by the downbeat ending: the garden sealed, the flowers decay, a sign put up saying "no one may come here."

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Poster: AltheaRose Date: Feb 2, 2012 1:14am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Rosemary

I think of Sugaree as a woman, although I know Robert Hunter apparently had a different interpretation. I don't mind it; he can think what he wants :-)

OK, on Rosemary ... I honestly feel the meaning is pretty clear. Well, to me, anyway. I look at it this way: Who were these songs written for? I mean, what circumstances of consciousness were the hearers (and the band) frequently in when the songs were heard? I don't think that's tangential to the meaning at all.

With that in mind, here are some thoughts on the lyrics of Rosemary (which I hope no one takes in a trivial or boringly Deadhead-stereotype way):

- A mirror (the image of oneself) is also a window (that you look out through). Looking out is also reflecting in. And that's necessarly alone.
- All around, a fantastical and colorful garden grows. Uh-huh.
- She came, she went (traveled), she went away. Ego went away? Or the traveling was finished? Either way works.
- The magical garden can no longer be entered after a time; the fantastical flowers that grew all around her decay, or vanish, or are no longer reachable.
- No one may stay. (True enough. Unless you're the estimated prophet, I guess.)

Boots were of leather
A breath of cologne
Her mirror was a window
She sat quite alone

All around her
the garden grew
scarlet and purple
and crimson and blue

She came and she went
and at last went away
The garden was sealed
when the flowers decayed

On the wall of the garden
a legend did say:
No one may come here
since no one may stay

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Poster: light into ashes Date: Feb 2, 2012 2:27am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Rosemary

What's this? Rosemary is....gasp....a drug song? Like a half-dozen other songs on that album? No way! :)

It's funny how many ways a song can be heard - Hunter's songs are not always too clear. The Annotated GD Lyrics site has essays explaining very seriously how Aoxomoxoa is really a series of songs about the life cycle and the loss of childhood...

I always took Sugaree to be a man, actually, sung to by a woman...but in the situation of the song, it doesn't seem to matter.

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Poster: AltheaRose Date: Feb 2, 2012 2:59am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Rosemary

Yeah, well, put that way it sounds really juvenile and dated and all ... there ought to be another phrase. "Expanded consciousness" song or something. "Owsleyesque?" "White Rabbitudinal?" How about "psychonautically charged"? That at least sounds semi-serious.

I may be wrong, but I'm betting that aspect is underanalyzed (or even avoided like some plaguey elephant in the room). After all, making note of the literary or folk-musical references is a way of underscoring the music's complexity and sophistication, but there's no easy way to talk about Those Other Aspects without risking sounding a bit like Beavis and Butthead. And also, of course, giving an opening to Dead bashers.

And yeah, the openness to interpretation (and refusal to be pinned down to a single interpretation) is so key to Hunter's genius.

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Poster: light into ashes Date: Feb 2, 2012 12:26pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Rosemary

Perhaps you're right that this aspect is underanalyzed or avoided.
Another way to see it is that the 'psychedelic' aspect of early Dead lyrics is limiting because it's so omnipresent - practically everything the Dead wrote in '67/68 can be taken as a 'trip' song. And were no doubt written as such.
Of course, this was a band dedicated to getting their audiences high in every way... But while Hunter probably intended many of his lyrics to be taken that way, to settle on that as the truest interpretation strikes me as a narrow approach, reading a song like cops looking for drug clues! I take the songs as being more like prisms, that cast different colors when you turn them different ways...

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Poster: vapors Date: Feb 2, 2012 2:32pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Rosemary

"I take the songs as being more like prisms, that cast different colors when you turn them different ways..."

Beautifully stated. and thanks once again for sharing your research and insights with us.

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Poster: William Tell Date: Feb 2, 2012 10:41am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Rosemary: LiA & Rose

WARNING: no rant, no criticism, no attack intended by what follows...just good old literary critique. Medication related as well...

;)

We've been down this path before, together in fact (the three of us, + many others), and you two know my "simple is best" rule regarding Hunter, so just thought I'd chime in to share my (old hat) take...

As I've said many times, I think Hunter is an excellent writer, but a very simple (elegant, not a knock on his style!) one. I think that when he wants to convey ideas, content--meaning, he does so in a beautiful and straight forward fashion.

IE, the songs like UJB, Ripple, BDPal, are all VERY straight forward and this is his "style # 1".

When he writes other songs, he is using his words much more simplistically than these many interpretations require: he is literally "writing without intention" and the words, as constructed, are the substance of the thing...nothing more, nothing less. FWIW, he writes beautifully in this format. Style # 2.

There are many writers that do this, but with respect to classic examples like CCS, by Hunter, it is merely the wonderful way in which the words are strung together that was intentional, at the time, rather than all of the gibberish that people infer from them at a later date. Hunter, like all good writers, encourages this--and that IS the beauty of art (that it allows for this). But, I don't put much stock in the "meaning" provided by subsequent interpreters, if you follow.

Thus, my point is not to invalidate ANY interpretation of ANY Hunter song, of either of these styles, BUT to simply (once more) emphasis that his two styles, to me, are very transparent: one conveys instant meaning/inference/innuendo because, duh, he wants it to; the other is vague and ambiguous because there is really nothing there (or everything if you want to view it that way) in that we could more easily explain WHY he wrote the words the way he did in those songs by "it sounded good". Period.

Sorry, didn't mean this to sound/read so pedantic, but I think it is over-looked how widespread this "non-sensical" writing style was for Hunter's generation (and again, that does NOT mean any less artistic or beautiful or accomplished).

My bottom line is that when Hunter wanted to convey "meaning", he did so very straightforwardly, and in the other instances, he is just juxtaposing words, phrases, etc, because in so doing, they are appealing. Finally, he has in some interviews more or less said this is what he does when writing; but, of course, it's more fun to allow the projections, interpretations, etc. developed by the listerners...

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Poster: light into ashes Date: Feb 2, 2012 12:46pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Rosemary: LiA & Rose

Interesting post.
Though an english-major myself, I actually try to stay away from any interpretation of the lyrics. (Here with Rosemary, I just listed some possible literary antecedents that Hunter may, or may not, have had in mind.)
I agree that some of his lyrics are just nonsense (in the Lewis Carroll sense); but many of the lines that seem simple turn out to be not so simple. Often Hunter did have a meaning in mind that kind of got boiled away in the writing; sometimes he prefers to express himself obscurely, to be more poetic.

This is an essay Hunter wrote about finding meaning in his lyrics, where he 'deconstructs' Franklin's Tower -
http://artsites.ucsc.edu/GDead/agdl/fauthrep.html
(He wrote it in response to a rather academic essay - http://artsites.ucsc.edu/GDead/agdl/jurgen.html - that suggested the Dead's lyrics mostly had no meaning at all.)

These are a few other related essays to consider -
http://artsites.ucsc.edu/GDead/agdl/nonsense.html (nonsense in Hunter's lyrics)
http://artsites.ucsc.edu/GDead/agdl/ambig.html (ambiguity in Hunter's lyrics)
http://artsites.ucsc.edu/GDead/agdl/goose.html (nursery rhymes in Dead songs)
http://artsites.ucsc.edu/GDead/agdl/aoxomoxo.html (a few notes on the Aoxomoxoa song cycle)
http://artsites.ucsc.edu/GDead/agdl/motif.html (an incomplete index of motifs in the Dead's lyrics; fun to browse)

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Poster: AltheaRose Date: Feb 2, 2012 6:55pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Rosemary: LiA & Rose

Well, yeah, to settle on anything as the "truest" interpretation is definitely limiting -- Hunter showed that brilliantly in his Franklin's essay! (Which was exactly his point, of course.)

And of course I'm not disagreeing with pointing out possible literary antecedents. Those can be (and are) obviously present even in the purest "trip" songs. (Which anyway wouldn't be terribly good "trip" songs if they didn't have a multiplicity of meanings beyond "whoa, look at those colors.")

The Annotated GD site is always interesting; a lot of what people have found seems far-fetched, IMO, if they're taken as "exact one-to-one influence," but Hunter clearly always read voluminously and there are all kinds of ways for what a writer has read to seep into their work, from conscious parallels and references to vague resonance that appears because, as Hunter has said, they just sound "appealing." (Which is another way of being vague on his part, but vague can be truest.) There have been many times when I've read a reference there and vowed to go back to the poem referenced and read the original ... and of course don't follow through! (Ditto with your essays and references, LiA; I'm always planning to go back and spend some good time reading all the links, etc. You should see my "favorites" list, LOL. I'm so impressed you find the time and focus to do all the work you do. It's always amazing, and I learn so much.)

Btw, I love it that the (long-ago) English major contributes a thoroughly researched and extensive essay full of literary references; the Art History major points out something that's been overlooked; and the Biology major goes, "Oh c'mon, the great thing about Hunter is he's STRAIGHTFORWARD, but a bunch of it is just nonsense!" Gee Uncle John, what was your major? :-)

This post was modified by AltheaRose on 2012-02-03 02:55:53

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Poster: light into ashes Date: Feb 2, 2012 7:24pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Rosemary: LiA & Rose

I think a lot of the suggestions on the Annotated GD site are nonsense, actually! But, it's all in good fun...
What's apparent is that Hunter was always immersed in poetry, particularly English, and that stuff influenced & seeped into his writing quite a bit; especially since he was often trying to write a traditional poem as much as a song.

Glad you find my essays useful. (It's pretty obvious I wasn't a music major!)
I'm always keenly aware, though, of how little time & focus I have for writing them, and there's SO much more that should've been written by now - my head's full of the posts to come, which will take months to get to. Other bloggers are much more diligent & productive...

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Poster: William Tell Date: Feb 3, 2012 6:23am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Rosemary: LiA & Rose

Bingo! [bio major biz; though, zoology degrees actually abound on the wall, or in the drawer, or wherever the wife puts such things...]

;)

And, I am so glad you two took it in the right spirit; FWIW, it wasn't really directed at EITHER you or LiA, as neither of you really do the kind of thing I was labeling "gibberish".

It's the other folks I've met over the yrs, or some here, that go on and on, and on, with interpretations (like with CCS), that really seem entirely beside the "point" (IMHO).

Thx for that...

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Poster: unclejohn52 Date: Feb 2, 2012 11:17am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Rosemary: LiA & Rose

possibly your most cogent post, ever. ;)

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Poster: Lou Davenport Date: Feb 2, 2012 3:37pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Rosemary

A song that Jerry sings can be understood as narrated by a woman? If so, I'm saying It Must Have Been the Roses is narrated by Annie's female lover.

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Poster: micah6vs8 Date: Feb 1, 2012 6:46am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Rosemary

>my swiss cheese brain.

Hey, that's my line. I have a CR too. That will be a nickel please or Advocate Sanad Satyal from the Intellectual Property Protection Bureau (P.) Ltd will be calling. (Please tip his boy when he comes to collect.)

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Poster: AltheaRose Date: Feb 1, 2012 7:29am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Rosemary

No, I said it first. Oh wait. I can't remember.

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Poster: unclejohn52 Date: Feb 1, 2012 6:00am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Rosemary

Stagger Lee of course... and maybe that lady appearing in the fire...